Most pirates need a shower. But they don't want a shower. Especially not the kind offered by the Nemesis 5000. That's the brand name of the pirate deterrent technology pioneered by SAFE Solutions, a private security company based in Deerfield Beach.
You can see the Nemesis in the video above. SAFE, founded by former members of elite military units and law enforcement agencies, is marketing the device as a nonlethal but still decisive weapon in the shipping industry's arms race against piracy.
I spoke this week with Steven Bienkowski, a former member of NYPD's special operations division and executive VP of SAFE's maritime services, who described how the Nemesis works.
"I don't know if you've ever been shot with a fire hose," he began...
No, most of us prefer to point fire hoses at, um, fires. But we can still appreciate their power for human persuasion. "It'll certainly knock off a ladder," says Bienkowski.
For the transport ships and tankers for which the Nemesis was developed, the idea is to shoot water with fire hose force from mounts placed 25 yards apart, covering every location where a ladder could be placed against a ship's hull. Even the most persistent pirates will tire of being knocked from their ladders, until finally deciding that there's a better way to make a buck, even in Somalia.
The genius of the Nemesis, says Bienkowski, is that it can be activated from the ship's bridge with the turn of a valve. In this respect, it's a big improvement over the man-operated water cannons that currently exist on tankers. Because when you're going against a pack of pirates wielding machine guns and rocket launchers, who would volunteer to man the ship's deck with a water gun?
Another common weapon, the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) comes with the same hazards. An intense loudspeaker, usually with a message in the pirate's native tongue, the LRAD also needs to be pointing at the pirates, who are happy to converse by way of machine gun.
And it's not just that SAFE wants to avoid bloodshed. No one complained after Navy SEALs gunned down the pirates holding Capt. Richard Phillips hostage. Rather, the nonlethal nature of Nemesis means it's not going to cause the kinds of legal trouble that might come with arming a ship with conventional weapons.
Also, on a tanker full of petroleum, it can be mighty stressful to have machine guns and live ammo laying around.
This month, SAFE is giving a Nemesis demonstration off the coast of North Carolina. The company will have one in Miami in November. It's already filling orders from big oil companies eager to be pirate-free.
For its next feat, perhaps SAFE will do us fans of True Blood a favor and invent a weapon that repels a certain "maenad" who appears unwilling to go quietly into the night.